Today is the 3-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act becoming law. I was proud to lead the effort to pass this bipartisan law to fix long-running maintenance challenges on our public lands and fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
PHOTO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich fishes in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, Photo Credit: Grayson Schaffer.
Over the years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been instrumental in protecting and unlocking public access to treasured public lands all across New Mexico. That includes “New Mexico’s Yellowstone,” the Valles Caldera National Preserve, with its trout streams, elk herd, and high altitude meadows. LWCF opened public access to the Caldera in the first place over two decades ago. It also helped to fund the more recent addition of Sulphur Springs.
LWCF is our most effective tool for opening up access to our public lands. That includes unlocking access to the rimrock canyon walls of northeastern New Mexico’s Sabinoso Wilderness and purchasing the entirety of Ute Mountain, the iconic centerpiece of the new Cerro del Yuta Wilderness in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. LWCF also helped us create the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in the heart of Albuquerque’s South Valley—for the next generation to fall in love with nature and the outdoors.
PHOTO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich with members of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, March 22, 2016.
Since the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, a new LWCF acquisition has made it much easier for hikers to access the Achenbach Canyon Trailhead and explore rugged scenery and unique desert plant life in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. There are similar LWCF-driven public access wins in the works in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and in the Santa Fe National Forest.
The Great American Outdoors Act has also delivered $29 million to reconstruct and replace the outdated utility system in the most visited Frijoles Canyon area of Bandelier National Monument. Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge has received more than $15 million to make repairs to its roads and trails and begin major renovations to its visitor center. Each of the national forests in our state has received millions of dollars to fix roads and bridges, restore trail networks, and rebuild campgrounds.
There is still work to do to effectively implement all of the investments in the Great American Outdoors Act. As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I am working to maximize LWCF opportunities and ensure LWCF funds are being allocated at an appropriate pace.
But three years in, we can all be proud that the Great American Outdoors Act is helping protect the future of the lands that we all love and treasure. And the LWCF is helping us ensure that our public lands are truly your lands. I hope you can take some time soon to get outside and enjoy these beautiful places throughout our state.